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Decanter’s Italian Encounter: Ian D’Agata interview

With The Great Italian Fine Wine Encounter approaching on Saturday 19th May, Decanter's Nina Johal talks exclusively to Italian wine expert Ian D'Agata, who will be hosting a masterclass on Barolo 2005: the finest wines from the finest vineyards. Find out what Ian is looking forward to at the encounter plus his top picks for everyday drinking...

We’re very excited that you’ll be joining us for this year’s Italian Encounter. How many times have you been now?

It’s my third time and it will also be my third Masterclass as well. Mind you, I also have attended Encounters in the past like any ordinary wine lover where I didn’t have to speak or guide tastings. I think it’s a great event and a wonderful way to taste some really great wines form all over the world.

You must enjoy giving masterclasses…what do you like most?

I personally love the contact with the public. The Masterclasses are very important as they allow us to drink great wines as well as giving us a chance to discuss and explain key wine issues with an eager and passionate wine-loving crowd.

So this year you’re talking about Barolo?

Yes, I am guiding everyone through ten Barolo 2005s. It will give me a chance to have people really understand the wines, not just drink them and talk about red cherries and tar. There’s a lot more to wine than that, and with Barolo especially there are so many nuances depending on where the wine is made. As with Pinot Noir in Burgundy, this is the ultimate spot in the world for terroir.

What’s so special about the 2005s?

2005 is an excellent vintage, one of the very perfumed ethereal Barolos, a vintage grossly underestimated by those wine experts who are only impressed by size and structure.

The 2005s are just a little lighter (but with Barolo that’s a relative term) and the wines are perfumed and uniquely fragrant – in fact it’s a much better vintage than 2004, but you’d never know it from everything that’s written about it.

Do you have any London based recommendations for Encounter visitors from out-of-town?

I love London. It’s a unique restaurant and theatre town, but I also love the parks and recommend a stroll along the Serpentine and in Regent’s Park, my personal favourite. Plus eat all the fish and chips you can, there’s no other place in the world like it for that particular speciality.

Going back to the beginning, what made you first want to get into the wine trade?

About 30 years ago I drank my first great wine, a Barolo 1971. The next day I drank an Eiswein 1976 from the Mosel. So I had two outstanding wines in a row and I was hooked. I started reading and going to tastings and have never looked back.

What wines would you recommend to Decanter readers for everyday drinking?

For whites, Mosel and Pfalz Riesling, Italian Kerner and Sylvaner and Pinot Bianco, affordable Burgundy, Alsatian Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, Ontario Riesling, and Rhone and Napa Viognier.

In the reds, Italian Chianti (the good ones from Rufina and Classico), Oregon Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernets, and affordable Burgundy.

What do you have in your cellar at the moment?

Personally, I think there’s too much emphasis on wine collecting and buying blue chips and investing. I hate that, it’s not why I got into wine, though I understand perfectly well why people do it. But I’ll just say I don’t even know what I have – I’m actually giving many of the bottles away to very good friends, I’ll never be able to drink them all, even in two lifetimes, but remember, I started collecting thirty years ago, and with a vengeance.

To find out more about Ian’s exciting Barolo masterclass and to book tickets to the Decanter Italian Fine Wine Encounter click here.

Written by Nina Johal

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